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No journalist has a legal right to belong to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. That’s one of the arguments the HFPA is making in an effort to convince a California federal judge that he should dismiss a suit brought by a Norwegian journalist who sued after being rejected for membership.
Kjersti Flaa in August sued the HFPA alleging the organization has adopted membership rules that exclude qualified applicants like herself and that it monopolizes opportunities to attend industry events to the exclusion of non-members and prevents competition among its members.
On Monday, the HFPA fired back with a scathing motion to dismiss her complaint. The organization behind the Golden Globes argues that she’s trying to use the judicial system to interfere with its member application process and circumvent its bylaws after she failed to be voted in for membership in 2018 and 2019. According to the motion, Flaa applied again in 2020 but sued before the results of the election were in.
“Flaa asks this Court to interfere with the admission process of the HFPA by rewriting the HFPA’s bylaws to revise the organization’s admissions criteria and eliminate altogether the vote of membership for the addition of new members, and to require that the HFPA automatically admit any applicant who satisfies Flaa’s view of what the ‘objective criteria’ for membership should be,” writes attorney Marvin Putnam in the motion, which is posted in full below.
The HFPA argues Flaa has failed to state a claim for violation of the common law right of fair procedure, which prohibits certain private organizations from excluding members if that exclusion impairs the person’s ability to work in their chosen profession. Not being an HFPA member doesn’t stop someone from being an entertainment journalist, the organization argues, and it doesn’t qualify as a private organization that operates in the public interest and therefore isn’t subject to the doctrine.
“[S]he does not and cannot allege that joining the HFPA is necessary to practice her trade as an entertainment journalist, nor does she submit any facts demonstrating that her lack of HFPA membership forecloses or significantly impairs her right or ability to pursue her chosen career,” writes Putnam. “Rather, Flaa does the opposite, emphasizing repeatedly that she is, and has been for two decades, a successful foreign entertainment journalist despite the fact that she is not a member of the HFPA.”
Further, the HFPA argues Flaa’s antitrust claims are “hopelessly muddled” and that she lacks standing because she failed to plead that any of her alleged injuries arise from harm to competition. “According to the complaint, this allegedly anticompetitive conduct resulted in Flaa being unable to secure certain interviews of celebrities and prevented her from attending some functions hosted by movie studios,” writes Putnam. “If that does not sound like a viable claim under the antitrust laws, it is because it most certainly is not.”
A hearing on the motion is currently set for Nov. 20.
Golden Globes producer Dick Clark Productions is a division of MRC Entertainment, which is part-owner of The Hollywood Reporter. DCP is not involved in this litigation.
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